The Banjo Dojo offers a unique look at learning to make music with the five-string banjo. No tab, no styles and no excuses.
My mother introduced me to the poetry of Emily Dickinson at an early age. Her poems are often simple and used a structure that fits the melody for The Yellow Rose of Texas and the theme from Gilligan’s Island – but do not be fooled. There are deep truths and emotions waiting to be discovered in Emily’s poetry.
I’m nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there’s a pair of us — don’t tell!
They’d banish us, you know.
How dreary to be somebody!
How public, like a frog
To tell your name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!
So what is Emily saying here?
I wish to sing of my interior visions with the naïve candour of a child. No doubt, this simple musical grammar will jar on some people. It is bound to offend the partisans of deceit and artifice. I foresee that and rejoice at it.
I started on the guitar with an instrument I salvaged from the trash and patched together with duct tape. A banjo playing friend loaned me an old guitar manual that had two bits of useful information strewn through the verbal detritus: how to make a C chord and a quote from Woody Guthrie.
The worst thing that can happen is to cut yourself loose from the people. And the best thing is to sort of vaccinate yourself right into the big streams and blood of the people.Woody Guthrie
I took my crappy guitar and my C chord out into the streets of Philadelphia. No idea of where to go, no money in my pockets and no goal in mind. Into the streets, out into the night and into the bloodstream of the city.
Today we have a poem about the nature of poetry by Ryōkan:
Who says my poems are poems?
My poems are not poems.
After you know my poems are not poems,
Then we can begin to discuss poetry!
What is the Great Fool saying here?
I know from my own experience that I have had people talk about music at me for days without ever even coming close to the topic.Is that the implication here, or is is something else?
Normally The Daily Frail is reserved for my Patreon sponsors. We are making today’s workshop public so that everybody can get a feel for the new workshop format.
Today we have a poem by Walt Whitman:
When I heard the learn’d astronomer,
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,
When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them,
When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.
Whitman did not stir up any controversy last time, so I thought we would look at more of his poetry.
There is a lot I could say about this one, but I will take Whitman’s advice and leave you to look at the stars on your own.
Today we have a very short poem by Robert Frost that, in typical Frost fashion, condenses deep truth into something that would fit on a greeting card or a refrigerator magnet. Robert Frost was brilliant that way.
We dance round in a ring and suppose,
But the Secret sits in the middle and knows.
Now the big question: how can we apply this to our study of music? Do our suppositions and banjo forum games of dancing around in circles blind us to the answers right in front of us? Is the secret so many students waste hours, days, weeks, years, decades and beyond just sitting in the open? Hiding in plain sight?